1) On the issue of abortion, the Left does not enforce the choice to abort — nor condition the choice to abort upon socioeconomic status. In other words, although a Left-leaning clinician might counsel a young woman to consider abortion as an option, there really is very little in the way of coercion or reducing available options for that mother. For the Left, nurturing a pregnancy to full term isn’t a reprehensible, immoral or recklessly unwise decision…it just may be a risky one for some women — or some children. Thus the Left is tolerant of these two different choices. On the Right, however, the approach to abortion is very different: it is often never a choice…never a viable option…because it is considered immoral, reprehensible, and recklessly unwise to abort at all. In this instance, the Left demonstrates more tolerance by allowing a young woman to choose her course in life, whereas the Right demonstrates less tolerance by disallowing a woman that choice.
Now a person might argue: “What about the rights of the child? What about their choice?” But that really sidesteps the central issue here, because an unborn child has no actual agency in this situation. In other words, they have no say in the matter. For the Right to assert that abortion is morally reprehensible is therefore an imposition of their will on both mother and child. The Right essentially dismisses all actual agency (in both the mother and the child) in deference to the potential agency of the child at some point in the future, without actually facilitating that agency. That is a rather odd kind of intolerance of the real situation that mother is going through, in favor of promoting and imposing an imagined possibility some time in the future. This is why it is perceived as “anti-Choice” or “pro-birth” rather than authentically “pro-life” (by both the Left and many on the religious Right) when someone is militantly anti-abortion. For someone to be authentically “pro-life,” they would need to consider how to support and nurture the future child and that child’s actual agency — independent of the mother’s involvement — if they persuade a mother to bring her pregnancy to full term. Only then is a Right-leaning person actually offering a real choice to the mother and the child — only then are they supporting the independent agency of everyone involved. Recognizing and accepting such actual consequences of being authentically “pro-life” would go a long way to making those on the Right (social conservatives in this case) seem much more “tolerant.”
2) On the issue of gay marriage, the Left’s tolerance is framed by a recognition that a) there are gay people, b) those gay people fall in love and want to marry, and c) gay people marrying has absolutely no impact on the marriages of heterosexuals. Folks on the Right may disagree with these assertions, but the desire to prevent certain folks from marrying is an imposition of restrictive judgements on an arbitrarily targeted group of people — in this case without any real evidence that it would cause harm to anyone. Sure, there are wild theories about the “corrosive” influence of gay culture on heteronormative society…and that kind of fear-mongering propaganda is what got “marriage protection” legislation passed in several states in years past. But then, as more and more folks (in the political middle and even on the Right) began to recognize how silly and baseless these fears were, the legislation was reversed and the “tolerance” that the Left had for the GLBTQ community began to expand across the political spectrum.
These are just two examples, but perhaps they help clarify why the “tolerance” on the Left really is more pervasive than anything evidenced on the Right. As one last comparison, consider the issue of anti-Christian sentiments on the Left. As a long-time member of the Unitarian Universalist Church, I can easily confirm that there is a great deal of “intolerance” in that community towards Christian fundamentalism. Not all Christians, mind you, just those of the fundamentalist/literalist/ultra-conservative variety. But why? Why would UUs, who are incredibly tolerant and accepting of all faiths (there are Buddhists, mystics, atheists, Jewish folks, Pagans, Christians and all manner of other beliefs practiced in UU congregations!) get their panties in a bunch over Christian fundamentalists…? Again, I would say it is because Christian fundamentalists perpetually seek to forcefully impose their own strictures on others. Just as with the abortion and gay marriage examples, there is a sort of controlling, pedantic, “iron rod” approach among many on the Right regarding what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable and is consequently severely judged and controlled.
My 2 cents.
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